In traditional Indian Hindu society, going barefoot is of prime importance. One way both rulers and ordinary folk pay respect to the temple deities is by approaching barefoot, a sign of respect, humility and submissiveness.
Going barefoot also signifies respect for the earth upon which people walk. The foot is the body part that touches the earth – the sacred mother of all. The earth is imbued with generative powers and the foot is thought of as the conduit through which the vital energy of the earth travels through humans unto the cosmos. These beliefs point to the foot being held in high esteem in Indian culture.
The feet of elders are worshipped by the younger generation; the feet of religious teachers and holy men by their followers; the feet of idols by their devotees, the feet of innocent persons by wrongdoers seeking forgiveness, and the feet of babies massaged by mothers to ensure a healthy, strong and energetic child.
Foot Care in India
For the above reasons, foot care is taken seriously in India, with people traditionally keeping their feet as clean and well-cared for as their hands. Bathing houses exist for those who do not possess the means for bathing and after-bath toiletry at home.
Almost every village boasts a craftsman who creates foot scrubbers and other items for cleaning the feet. Foot scrubbers carved of stone or cast in brass are transformed into delicate, aesthetic objects of indulgence. The fortunate man of means could look forward to a thorough foot cleansing at the end of the day, followed by an unctuous massage with scented oils.
Foot Care Now
When I read the above information, I got to thinking about my practice of soaking and scrubbing the feet of my clients. I have always felt humbled sitting at the feet of my clients, but these new insights will bring a higher purpose to the ritual now. And I like that.